Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the circuit court requiring Polk Properties, LLC and its sole member (collectively, Polk) to pay forfeitures for zoning violations, damages for the Village of Slinger's lost property tax revenue, and fees, holding that Polk did not abandon its nonconforming use.At issue was whether Polk abandoned the legal nonconforming use of the subject property after its zoning classification was changed from agricultural to residential. The circuit court enjoined Polk from using the property for agricultural reasons and imposed forfeitures, a monetary judgment for real estate taxes, and an order authorizing special assessments, special charges, and fees to be levied against Polk. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Polk's use of the property constituted a lawful nonconforming use for which Polk could not be penalized. View "Village of Slinger v. Polk Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's order upholding the Town of Newbold's denial of Petitioner's attempt to subdivide his property, holding that the Town ordinance precluding the subdivision was a permissible exercise of the Town's subdivision authority pursuant to Wis. Stat. 236.45.The Town denied Petitioner's proposed subdivision because the two resulting lots would not meet the Town's applicable minimum shoreline frontage requirement, as set forth in the Town ordinance. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the minimum shoreline frontage requirement was unenforceable because it was a shoreline zoning regulation that the Town did not have the authority to enact. The Supreme Court rejected the argument, holding that the ordinance was a permissible exercise of the Town's subdivision authority, and therefore, the Town proceeded on a correct theory of law when it denied Petitioner's request to subdivide his property. View "Anderson v. Town of Newbold" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of a local zoning court of appeals approving homeowners' variance request, holding that, pursuant to Wis. Stat. 62.23(7)(e)10., certiorari review of the board's decision is triggered when a written copy of the decision is filed in the board's office.The homeowners in this case petitioned the Village of Williams Bay Extraterritorial Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance request. The Board unanimously approved the variance. Plaintiff, the homeowners' neighbor, filed for a writ of certiorari within thirty days after the Board orally voted to grant the variance but before the Board issued and filed a written copy of its decision. The circuit court affirmed the Board's decision. The court of appeals affirmed. At issue on appeal was whether the court of appeals properly determined what constitutes the "triggering event" for purposes of appealing the Board's decision on a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an aggrieved party's right to certiorari review is triggered when a written copy of a zoning board of appeals' decision is filed in the office of the board; (2) the Board's written decision and approved minutes were properly included in the certiorari record; and (3) the Board acted under the correct theory of law. View "Moreschi v. Village of Williams Bay" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court striking two insurance conditions from a conditional use permit (CUP) Dane County issued to Enbridge Energy Company as unenforceable under 2015 Wisconsin Act 55, holding that because Enbridge carried the requisite insurance, Act 55 rendered Dane County's extra insurance conditions unenforceable.The two conditions at issue required Enbridge to procure additional insurance prior to Enbridge expanding its pipeline pump station. Dane County approved the CUP with these insurance conditions. Thereafter, the Wisconsin Legislature passed Act 55, which prohibits counties from requiring an interstate pipeline operator to obtain additional insurance when the pipeline operating company carries comprehensive general liability insurance with coverage for "sudden and accidental" pollution liability. Dane County issued the CUP with the invalid insurance conditions. The circuit court struck the two conditions from the CUP as unenforceable under Act 55. The court of appeals reversed on the ground that Enbridge failed to show it carried the requisite coverage triggering the statutory prohibition barring the County from imposing additional insurance procurement requirements. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Enbridge carried the requisite insurance, and therefore, Dane County's extra insurance conditions were unenforceable. View "Enbridge Energy Co. v. Dane County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's denial of the Town of Rib Mountain's action seeking a declaration that Marathon County lacked the authority to establish a rural naming or numbering system in towns, holding that Wis. Stat. 59.54(4) does not restrict a county's authority to "establish a rural naming or numbering system in towns" to only rural areas within towns.In 2016, Marathon County decided to establish a uniform naming and numbering system. The Town of Rib Mountain was one of the towns required to participate in the addressing system. The Town filed this action for declaratory relief alleging that the statute confines counties to implementing naming and numbering systems only within "rural" areas of towns. The circuit court denied relief. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the use of the word "rural" unambiguously demonstrated that the legislature intended to restrict a county's naming and numbering authority to "rural" areas. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the statutory text provides that a county may establish a rural naming or numbering system "in towns"; and (2) accordingly, Marathon County acted within its authority by enacting an ordinance to create a uniform naming and numbering system in towns throughout Marathon County. View "Town of Rib Mountain v. Marathon County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's orders granting the City of Whitehalls' motion to dismiss the Town of Lincoln's action challenging the City's annexation of a portion of the Town, holding that the court of appeals erred in limiting the grounds on which the Town may challenge the annexation.On appeal, the Town argued that the decision of the court of appeals was based on the erroneous classification of the petition as one for direct annexation by unanimous approval even though the annexation petition lacked the required signatures of all landowners. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the annexation petition was not a petition for direct annexation by unanimous approval; and (2) because the limitations on annexation challenges set forth in Wis. Stat. 66.0217(11)(c) pertain only to petitions for direct annexation by unanimous approval, those limitations did not apply in this case. View "Town of Lincoln v. City of Whitehall" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the the Board of Review for the Town of Delafield’s reclassification of two lots of land owned by Appellants from “agricultural land” to “residential”, holding that the two lots at issue were entitled to be classified as agricultural land as a matter of law.In reversing the circuit court, the court of appeals determined that a business purpose was not necessary for land to be classified as agricultural land for property tax purposes and that the assessor’s determination of the appropriate classification was driven by his erroneous understand of the law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a business purpose is not required for land to be classified as agricultural land for property tax purposes; and (2) the two lots at issue were entitled to be classified as agricultural land. View "Peter Ogden Family Trust of 2008 v. Board of Review for the Town of Delafield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals, holding that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did not have the authority to unilaterally amend the pier permit of Philip and Terrie Myers.After the Myers were granted a permit by the DNR and built a pier at their waterfront property. Later, the DNR issued a formal permit amendment requiring the Myers to significantly change their pier. The Myers declined to comply with the permit amendment and filed a petition for judicial review. The circuit court denied the petition, concluding that the DNR had the authority to amend the pier permit. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the DNA lacked authority to amend the Myers’ permit. View "Myers v. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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In this case arising out of the approval of a redevelopment project in the City of Eau Claire, which relied in part on funds derived from two tax incremental districts (TIDs), the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the court of appeals.Plaintiffs, Voters with Facts, et al., challenged the legality of the City’s actions with regard to the TIDs. Plaintiffs sought declaratory relief on their claims and argued, in the alternative, that under certiorari review the City had acted outside the scope of its lawful authority. The circuit court dismissed the case, concluding that Plaintiffs lacked standing. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ complaint as to declaratory judgment, agreeing that Plaintiffs lacked standing. But the court reversed and remanded for certiorari review because the circuit court had not directly addressed that claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that certiorari review was appropriate because it is the proper mechanism for a court to test the validity of a legislative determination. Because the record was insufficient to enable this Court’s review, a remand to the circuit court for certiorari review of Plaintiffs’ first and second claims was required. View "Voters with Facts v. City of Eau Claire" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Building Permit Rule (Rule) extended to land identified in a building permit application as part of a project upon which no actual construction was planned.Golden Sands Diary, LLC obtained a building permit for seven farm structures. Its building permit application identified the building site as 100 acres and its total acreage as 6,388 acres, on which it sought to operate a farm. After Golden Sands filed its building permit application, the Town of Saratoga enacted a zoning ordinance seeking to prohibit agricultural uses such as those proposed by Golden Sands. Golden Sands argued that the Rule extended to all the land identified in its building permit application, and therefore, it had a vested right to use all of the property for agricultural purposes. The circuit court concluded that the Rule extends to all land identified in a building permit application. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Rule applies only to building structures and not to use of land. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Rule extends to all land specifically identified in a building permit application; and (2) therefore, Golden Sands had a vested right to use all of the property for agricultural purposes. View "Golden Sands Dairy LLC v. Town of Saratoga" on Justia Law